Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Hollandse Nieuwe

It’s the middle of June, and that can only mean one thing (actually that could mean anything, but for a blog about food in the Netherlands, it means something pretty special)…it’s time for Hollandse Nieuwe.  Mmm, Hollandse Nieuwe.

This delicacy of the Atlantic is known as herring to the uninitiated, and more specifically, Hollandse Nieuwe refers to the first catch of the season. The resemblance to the herring of my childhood is negligible, not that I have a really clear picture of it in my mind anymore.  I just remember an unsightly gray mass always present at family gatherings next to the pickles and olives, a pile of pickled fish from a jar I consciously avoided on my way to the chips and seven-layer taco dip. Dutch herring goes through some sort of salt curing process and arrives to the consumer nicely filleted and in a fairly fresh state.  The season only lasts about six weeks, but they freeze a lot of the stock to sell throughout the rest of the year.  I missed the season last year, because I was back in the States for eight weeks.  No way was I going to miss it again this summer.  While most people in the line ordered it as a snack, complete with the requisite chopped onions, I got mine nicely packaged up for dinner that night.  Look at this adorable bag:
If you take a look at the first picture from this newspaper article, you can see the “traditional” way Dutch people eat herring—all in one go—but I have never seen it served that way here in Amsterdam.  The fishmonger usually cuts it up nicely for you so you can enjoy each little piece while sitting on a bench watching the bicycles go by.  That’s what the tourists usually do, anyway.  While some people may not think that pieces of herring with onions sounds good, it is actually pretty amazing.  The bite of the onions offers a nice contrast to the fatty fish.  Man, just writing this is making me want to go order one.  
Apparently it is a good year for the little fish.  The ones I bought were huge!  I bought two of the little suckers for dinner, but we ended up only eating one and saving the other one for our appetizer (yeah, like we usually have appetizers before dinner) the next night.  It’s one of those fresh foods I wish I could somehow bottle up and send to people so they could know just how good it is.  Since that’s not possible, you should all come visit me in the next few weeks before the season ends.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Summertime quiche

Is there something about summer that makes people want to be productive in the kitchen?  I have been on some sort of weird cooking/baking bender as of late, and I have plenty of pictures to prove it.  Too bad I haven't been posting those pictures.  After letting these sit in my camera for a month, I finally decided today would be the day I would finally upload them.

Is it a procrastination technique in progress?  You betcha.  I haaaaaate the chapter I am editing and want to avoid looking at the mess on the page.  I think I dislike editing in general, but I've returned to a chapter I sort of gave up on about nine months ago, and what I wrote then is not very pretty or even coherent.  The voice of reason inside my head tells me that avoiding my chapter is not going to make it go away, and it will probably make my anxiety worse.  That is so true, and I hate my inner voice of reason for that, which is why I'll suppress it for about twenty more minutes.

Back to more interesting things, like quiche.  I am totally in love with this recipe from Piece of Cake, and I just throw in whatever vegetables happen to look good at the market.  Lately, it's been things like carrots and leeks, but I'll see where the summer takes me.  Quiche from start to finish: as easy as 1,2,3,4

Ah, delicious dinner, brought to me through the joy of using my rolling pin and my pie plate.  I don't really know what I would do without my American pie plates.  How do the Dutch cope without them or regular cake tins, for that matter?  Actually, I'm pretty sure they bake 99% of their cake/pie/quiche concoctions in springform pans.  Finding a cake tin that does not come with removable sides involves some good sleuthing skills (until you find the large cooking store in Amsterdam, at which point you cry out of happiness and learn that all searches for baking supplies should forever after start there).  So I am sure that if your kitchen does not house the "exotic" pie plate, you could make this quiche, too.

Just out of amusement, I took a picture of our dinner menu for that week.  It looks like a love letter to the god of carbohydrates.  In case you can't read it, here is the menu:

Sat) Pizza

Sun) Vegetable quiche

Mon) Pasta with pesto

Tues) N[iek] not eating at home

Wed) Zucchini soup with puffed pastry vegetable tarts

Thurs) Pasta with vegetables

Fri) Black bean tacos

Is pasta twice a week overkill?  When I lived in L.A. I ate it maybe four times a week.  I suppose I can chalk it up to life of a student and all that that entails.  I'm still a student, kind of, so I see pasta twice a week as a major improvement.